Peculiar Politics in South Carolina

Peculiar politics in South Carolina is a never ending saga. On June 15, South Carolina Republican State Senator Jake Knotts of Lexington told the South Carolina Senate he is proud to be a redneck and would not resign from the Senate for having called Nikki Haley and President Obama ragheads. Haley is a former Sikh of Indian ancestry and front-runner for the Republican nomination for Governor in the June 22nd run-off.

On June 17, Democrat Alvin Greene’s stunning landslide victory in the Democratic Primary for the US Senate seat held by Jim De Mint was upheld by the SC’s Democratic Executive Committee’s 38.5 to 7.5 vote after hearing a protest by his opponent Vic Rawl. Rawl’s witnesses argued that voting machines malfunctioned to provide a landslide victory for Greene. Greene, a Forrest Gump figure, is an unknown, unemployed, African-American veteran, who also faces a felony obscenity charge. In a brief phone interview Greene said. “They did the right thing,” “I am the best candidate for the United States Senate in the state of South Carolina.” Rawl is a former judge, and legislator whose 59 to 41% loss shocked the political establishment. Rawl said he didn’t have enough time to prepare his case before the hearing.

Jake Knotts said the Lexington Republicans who asked him to resign for his raghead comments were hypocrites because he had been called a redneck and no one came to his defense. He said he is a true redneck if that means a farmer who works from dawn to dusk and whose neck is red from the sun. When Knotts said, “If all of us rednecks leave the Republican Party, the party is going to have one hell of a void,” he was telling it like it is.

In 1968, the party of Lincoln devised a Republican Southern strategy to co-opt George Wallace’s appeal to white bigotry which has been the building block for Republicanism in the South ever since. I was a Wallace staffer from 1967-71 and became Executive Director of the Wallace Presidential campaign. I witnessed Wallace’s clever appeal to the prejudices of working class white folks.

In 1970, Wallace spoke to a crowd of textile workers in Alabama railing against the “Northern, liberal media who want the Federal Government to control every phase and aspect of our daily lives.”

I mean, the long-haired, pointy-headed, pseudo-intellectuals writers at the New York Times, who don’t have enough sense to park their bicycles straight. They look down their noses at us and call us pea pickers and pecker-woods, lint-heads and red-necks. If they call us red-necks because our necks might be red from an honest day’s toil in the Summer sun, then call us rednecks because there’s two things about them; they wouldn’t do an honest day’s work in the summer sun and
their hair’s so long their necks wouldn’t get red anyway.”

“When Fidel Castro was launching his offensive in the hills of Cuba, the New York Times called him the Robin Hood of the Caribbean and we all know he is a Communist.”

“But if you had asked any cab driver in the streets of New York City or Montgomery, Alabama what they thought about Castro when the New York Times was singing his praises, the cab driver would have told you that he was a Communist. The cab drivers know this by instinct. They are everyday people like us who have fierce contact with life.

We had fierce contact with some contentiously contested election protests when I served on the Democratic Executive Committee of South Carolina in the 1980s and ‘90s, but never one as interesting as when Vic Rawl made his case for a new primary election for the Senate race. Rawl’s attorney argued that they did not have to prove corruption, but only that because the machines were unreliable, the outcome was not correct.
Rawl’s protest focused on the voting machines that leave no paper trail to substantiate their reliability. The Election Systems & Software (ES&S) machines use software whose reliability was criticized in the 2008 Presidential election race in Ohio. Dr. Duncan Buell, a mathematician and computer science professor from the University of South Carolina testified that” “We should treat these machines with an enormous amount of skepticism.”
Rawl’s protest claimed that: the machines are susceptible to accidental or intentional modification, alteration or tampering; numerous voters experienced difficulty in trying to cast votes for Rawl; that the results cannot be verified; and that inherent unreliability of the machines constitutes evidence that the election is invalid.

Big money controls politics. The US Supreme Court has just ruled in the Citizens United case that money counts as free speech. Money talks in America. If the votes were accurately counted, and the candidate who spent no money on media ads, signs, or a web site won, it would be a good thing for our democracy.

When South Carolina seceded from the Union in 1860, James L. Petigru, a former South Carolina legislator and Attorney General said, “South Carolina is too small for a republic and too large for an insane asylum.” Considering our ragheads, rednecks and the Greene machines, Petigru’s description still applies.

TOM TURNIPSEED is an attorney, writer and peace activist in Columbia, SC. His blog is